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Paterson family back on the road

The waters have receded and access has been restored for the marooned family in Paterson.

The waters have receded and access has been restored for the marooned family in Paterson.

After spending one week with all property access roads cut off by rising floodwaters from Sophia Creek, eight kilometres south of Rossland, Rob Wagner and his girlfriend, Crystal Maehder, and his son Marek, 8, are back in civilization.

For eight days Wagner and his family hadn’t been able to leave their property, nor could he get to work, his truck stranded in a yard surrounded by several feet of water with no access points to the highway.

In order to keep appointments, they have had to slog up the mountain behind the house and through the forest, hike across a slope, and then cross the fast-flowing, water-filled ditch and hope to hitch a ride into town.

But as the floodwater subsided last weekend the area’s maintenance contractor, Emcon Services Inc., was able to restore one of the two property accesses to Highway 22 that had been completely washed away when the creek jumped its banks Feb. 26.

However, another heavy rain event the next day resulted in the accesses once again being washed out. As before, the accesses were reestablished as soon as possible for a second time.

“Now I’m free to come and go. I’m back out there handing out quotes for the vinyl decking,” Wagner said. “It was tough … but there’s not much you can do about it. Water is a very powerful force.”

The increase in flow on Sophia Creek was a result of a heavy rain event in the area, said Darrell Gunn, district operations manager for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

The rain caused an expedited snowmelt resulting in increased creek flow, he said.

“The increased flow also caused a large amount of bed load to be deposited at the culvert, affecting its capacity,” said Gunn.

Although an excavator began working right away to remove the deposited matter — that included rocks, soil, gravel and wood — from the intake of the culvert, even with the culvert capacity almost fully restored the increased flow was still too great.

That resulted in water running down the side of the highway and washing out multiple private accesses, including Wagner’s. Due to the high flow the maintenance contractor was not able to immediately restore all of the accesses.

Gunn said both ministry and maintenance contractor staff worked to discuss the situation with the isolated homeowners, with the most affected residents given contact numbers for the maintenance contractor, and isolated residents were contacted by Emergency Management BC.

Gunn said work continues investigating up stream to see if any changes caused the extreme flow.

“A hydrologic study is planned for the drainage basin to determine if a larger culvert is needed at the highway,” he said.

And that is something Wagner would like to see happen.

“Hopefully they put in a larger culvert and, if not, we’ll be talking again next year,” he said.

The maintenance contractor continues to check the creek and the eroded highway shoulders to make the necessary repairs.